A Dietitian’s Take on Weighing vs. Measuring Portions

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Not paying attention to portion size is a surefire way to gain unwelcomed weight. Even when we think we’re being accurate about how much we’re eating, we tend to underestimate portion sizes according to research, particularly for beverages and “medium-energy density” foods like peanut butter toast and blueberry muffins.

However, both weighing and measuring food are effective ways to keep portions in check — and can be helpful techniques for those who are new to food logging or who are having a hard time estimating. But is one method better than the other? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two and the pros and cons of each.

WHY WEIGH?

Weighing food is certainly more accurate than simply taking a volume measurement because the amount of food you can fit in a measuring cup or spoon varies greatly. This is particularly true for more calorie-dense solid foods like nuts, proteins, starchy vegetables and certain fruits. For example, one cup of cubed avocado has 240 calories. But, how big of a cube are we talking about? If you dice it, chances are there are significantly more calories in that cup.

This may not matter much if you eat it only occasionally, but add a cup of diced avocado to your smoothie every morning and those calories add up over time. Brown sugar is another good example. One cup of loose brown sugar contains 551 calories. Pack it tightly, though, and that same cup has a whopping 836 calories, enough to impede weight-loss goals.

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